Fireflies and the Meaning of Life

Fireflies and the Meaning of Life

One of my vivid childhood memories was the delight I felt in watching the fireflies light up the darkness from my Aunt Julia’s front porch in Buffalo, N.Y. We kids would chase after those elusive little bugs with mason jars in hand hoping to catch them and see their bursts of light in the glass. What fun!

Odd isn’t it, but maybe not so strange, that I find myself seven decades later in life smiling with pleasure at the wonder I felt as a six-year-old boy watching the tiny sparks from those lightening bugs. Awesome, too, that our human memories are able to reach that far back in time and recall the seemingly insignificant moments in our lives.

Once a priest, always a priest, my mind leaps to the absolutely unknowable, the mind of God. I was thinking that if our human memories are capable of snatching snippets of memories from early childhood, God can surely do it over eons and eons of time.

I imagine the Master of the Universe, for whom there is no time, as we know it, viewing our brief moments on earth as little sparks of life. Dare I go further and think that God treasures our moments as we kids enjoyed the lightening bugs? Yes, I do believe that for, to me, God has always been just another word for love. And if God cares for all his creation, from the birds of the air to the lilies of the fields and yes, even the memories we felt at the little lightening bugs, we need not angst over the future of our world or the meaning of life.

Happy New Year!

God's Got His Back; The Kid Will be Okay

God;s Got His Back. The Kid Will be Okay

Kids have a way of breaking your heart at times and serving you a great big dollop of humility in the bargain. I found myself falling big time for this little kid at the Village right from the first day I met him.

“Matt” is hard not to like. He’s smart, affectionate, outgoing, enthusiastic…all those qualities that make any kid likable. But he also carries within him the demons of early childhood abuse and neglect that haunt him and can at times make him a threat to himself and to others.

In my naivety (or was it arrogance) I always figured if we could just lavish on him the love and caring that he missed growing up, heck we could turn his life around in no time.

I made it my personal goal to bring about change in Matt. I gave him lots of one-on-one time, showed up for him at school plays and basketball games, took him out for ice cream, watched Sponge Bob Square Pants with him, gave him hundreds of hugs and pats on the back to encourage him along the way. I assured him too that the neglect and abuse he had suffered was not his fault, that he is a good kid, a child created in the image and likeness of God.

But guess what? On the surface at least, he is still a very troubled, at times self-destructive little boy, seemingly intent on frustrating all the care we have given him.

I was starting to feel totally frustrated at how little we have been able to help this kid.

You’d think that an old guy like me would have known better. Down deep, I know, we all know that none of us can change people. People have to change themselves. Was I really imagining that a few hugs and several visits to Baskin Robbins could “save” this little kid? In my head, I knew better but I wasn’t paying attention.

It took a friend of mine who has gone through the Alcoholics Anonymous treatment program to remind me of some basics. Whether you are dealing with your own demons or trying to help other human beings, there comes a time when you must admit that you are powerless. There comes a time when you have to make a decision to turn our lives over to the care of God as we understand Him.

I have not given up on little Matt. He is young yet and can turn his life around but I know now that I can’t do that for him. My role is much less grandiose. I’ll still hug him and tell him I love him. (He told me once in exasperation, “Grandpa Hank you told me that a thousand times already”) I am not a super grandpa.It feels liberating to admit that. And somehow, I am more confident than ever that this kid will succeed. Before I thought that if I hugged him enough, I could save him. Duh! All the time his little kid has been resting in the in the bosom of his Father. God’s got his back. Matt’s gonna be fine.